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Naturally, the sport is suffering with its biggest name so adrift. Golf never was more visible, more cool, than when Woods was doing wondrous things like pulling off the Tiger Slam. And now? Well, TV ratings are down, interest is down and the game just seems diminished, back to where it was in the Nick Faldo-Greg Norman years. The two players atop the rankings, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, have yet to win a major championship. They’re very talented, don’t get me wrong, they’re just not Tiger Woods, not by 3-wood.

But then, Tiger Woods isn’t Tiger Woods either — not now, maybe never again. That’s why word of his withdrawal from the Open isn’t quite as numbing as it might have been. In his current state, after all, he wouldn’t have been one of the favorites and might have been hard-pressed to make the cut. The Open, with its thin fairways, thick rough and NASCAR-fast greens, is no place for a wounded player who hasn’t even been able to practice.

Besides, the AT&T is returning to Congressional for at least three more years (2012-14), so we figure to see Woods up close again. If we’re lucky, it’ll be a Tiger we can recognize, not this imposter we see before us, this Tiger Lite.